Because Rebecca Leas is an outspoken critic of Powertech/Azarga's plan to pollute the Black Hills and use up our water to help the Chinese get rich off our uranium, Pat Powers portrays her as an out-of-touch feminist. Don't ask for logic; for Pat, it's just personal.

Leas spoke to the Rapid City Council last night to speak up against the objectification of women inherent in a comment made by Rapid City economic development honcho Benjamin Snow two weeks ago at an energy conference explaining an advantage the Black Hills could leverage to draw residents and business from the Bakken oil fields:

But Ben Snow, president of Rapid City Economic Development Center, said at an energy conference Thursday that the region has another, less obvious but hugely important enticement for oil and gas companies: the fact half the city's population is female.

"Here's another advantage I love to give these guys (in North Dakota) a hard time about: We have a one-to-one ratio of male to females here," Snow said to a chorus of laughter at the ninth annual New Horizons Oil and Gas Conference, which was held Thursday afternoon at the Black Hills Learning Center. "We think that's a good thing."

It was intended as a joke, but it was also a part of Snow's overall argument that the quality of life in Rapid City is superior to northwestern North Dakota and Montana, where much of the oil and gas resources are located. And having more women may be a big deal for workers who live in so-called man camps and get lonely for female companionship [Scott Feldman, "Rapid City Courts Energy Industry by Touting Female Demographic," AP via Casper Star Tribune, 2014.04.27].

Rebecca Leas finds the objectification of women as an economic development resource and the laughter greeting it "disturbing."

So does Karen Pettigrew of Rapid City:

It was really mindless and offensive of Ben Snow to offer an adequate supply of women for energy-industry workers in his bid to lure energy-related business to the "Rushmore Region." While he may consider a 1:1 ratio of women to men provides a high quality of life inducement, many will find that an influx of male workers in search of female companionship is a concerning situation that can lead to exploitation of vulnerable women in a community.

Mr. Snow is obviously ignorant of the efforts of Rep. Kristi Noem, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, Family Heritage Alliance and law enforcement officials to raise public awareness of the existence of human/sex trafficking that already occurs in South Dakota.

Using women as bait does nothing to enhance the image of our region, and insults our women [Karen Pettigrew, letter to the editor, Rapid City Journal, 2014.05.01].

So does Karen Goulet of Hot Springs:

Women of the Black Hills, rise up in protest! Do you want to be looked upon as “female companionship” for workers who live in man camps? Do you want your daughters used for “economic development” in the area? According to Ben Snow in the front-page article of the April 25 Journal, you are welcome as one of the lures to get the oil and gas workers to open industry in Rapid City.

...It is time for hard choices. We may have economic development, but at what price?

Women and men who care about your wives, daughters and sisters and our beautiful Black Hills, it is time to be heard. If not now, it may be too late [Mary Goulet, letter to the editor, Rapid City Journal, 2014.04.30].

So does Jim Kent of Hot Springs, who puts Snow's brutish comment in proper historical and social context:

I have to admit to being pretty stunned when I read the story. I mean, it’s hard to believe in this day and age... that anyone—especially in a leadership role—would present the women of their community as an enticement to bring in male workers, regardless of the industry they’re a part of.

Of course, I realize there are many fans of the “Deadwood” TV series who see a certain charm in Ian McShane’s portrayal of Al Swearengen. But the reality is that Al’s Gem Saloon was a brothel, and he treated the women who worked there like dirt—behavior no community should aspire to.

...Saddest of all is Snow’s apparent unawareness of, or insensitivity to, the female population in a town that’s already been cited as the nation’s “Rape Capital.” You’re right, that was “years ago.” So, let’s move forward a bit to the February 2014 CNN report listing South Dakota as No. 2 in the country for incidents of rape [links mine; Jim Kent, "Come for Women Joke Falls Flat," Rapid City Journal, 2014.05.01].

Sex trafficking is a major problem in the Bakken oil fields. To joke about marketing South Dakota as a place where Bakken oil men can find females demonstrates ignorance of or insensitivity toward a culture of misogyny bred by the Bakken oil rush. To protest such misogynist thickheadedness, as Leas, Pettigrew, Goulet, and Kent do, is not, as Powers tries to characterize it, making it a crime for men to like women. It's actually a call for men to like and respect women much more than Snow's comment suggests he does.

Related: Leas's protest came in the midst of a Rapid City Council meeting in which many church-going citizens advocated stricter rules against Rapid City's only remaining strip club. Ben Snow was not there, but would he say such regulation will hinder local economic development?